Photograph courtesy Amy Gusick
About the Project
Archaeologist Amy Gusick and her team are going underwater in the Sea of Cortez to search for evidence of the New World’s earliest inhabitants.
Traditional theory has been that Clovis culture hunters on the trail of mammoth and bison arrived in North America from Asia across a corridor between retreating ice sheets.
Gusick’s team supports the emerging theory that the earliest new world immigrants arrived via the Pacific coast, which would have been ice-free and available for migration beginning about 14,500 years ago.
To date, archaeological research into the Pacific coastal migration theory has been largely focused on terrestrial areas along the eastern Pacific coast. However, Gusick’s team believes the proof is located underwater.
Isla Espiritu Santo, an island in the Sea of Cortez represents a key piece of this research. The first human migrations into the Americas could have utilized this island for many reasons including the marine life, fresh water sources, rock shelters, coastal location and its close proximity to the mainland.
In an earlier phase of the project, Gusick created a model of part of a drowned landscape off Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. This allowed the team to identify areas that would be optimal for mobile hunter-gatherers.
Now, armed with the model, Gusick's team is ready to go below and search for the elusive evidence of North America's first inhabitants.
Hundreds of cultural deposits have been identified on Isla Espiritu Santo; two of these sites date back to the Pleistocene epoch (1.8 million to 11,550 years ago); however the sites were not dated early enough to relate to a Pleistocene coastal migration.
Gusick's team discovered sites last year that also did not date to the late Pleistocene, but they only had gone approximately 60 feet deep. To find materials that would date to the Late Pleistocene, the team plans on looking at landscapes deeper than 120 feet. They will be conducting a combination of sonar and physical scuba surveys in the new year.
More NGS/Waitt Grants Projects
- Challenging conventional wisdom in social innovation
- Tracking Tigers Is Just As Dangerous As It Sounds
- Creating an Artificial Ice Storm
- Green Warriors Honored—Continued
- Better Oceans, Better World: Inspiring Conservation Through Pristine Seas
- Why I Didn’t Want to Study the Norse World—But I’m Very Glad I Did
- Weaving Science With Storytelling on the American Prairie Reserve
- Shipwreck Hunter Discovers 500-Year-Old Treasures
- Putting TED2016’s Biggest Ideas to Work for Archaeology
- Best Job Ever: Conquering the World’s Largest Glaciers
Listen: Explorer Interviews
Listen to Nat Geo Explorer Interviews
Fascinating Conversations From Our Weekly Radio Show—Nat Geo Weekend
00:11:00 Bob Ballard
Boyd heads out of the studio to join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Bob Ballard aboard his vessel the E/V Nautilus. Currently in Turkey, Ballard tells Boyd about the many shipwrecks he is finding in the Mediterranean. You can follow Ballard and his team, live as they explore the ocean at www.nautiluslive.org.
00:06:00 Valerie Clark
National Geographic grantee Valerie Clark licks frogs for a living. As Clark tells Boyd, she’s not looking for Prince Charming. Instead, she is studying how the diet of frogs in Madagascar relates to the toxicity of their skin.
00:11:00 Lee Berger Audio
National Geographic grantee and paleoanthropologist Lee Berger has been searching for the fossils of human ancestors, but it was his 9-year-old son who stumbled upon the find of a lifetime: a partial skeleton that may very well change our understanding of the genus Homo.
00:07:59 Brad Norman
Some go swimming with dolphins or stingrays, Brad Norman, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and marine conservationist, talks about swimming with the largest fish in the world: the whale shark. Norman speaks with Boyd about his research concerning whale shark habitats, tracking and conservation.
00:11:00 Losang Rabgey
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Losang Rabgey has found her life's work in strengthening rural communities on the Tibetan plateau, which includes building schools to educate local students. Rabgey joins Boyd with updates on the successful work of Machik, the non-profit she founded and now directs.
00:11:00 Dereck and Beverly Joubert
National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert capture astounding images of African wildlife in their beautiful films. The Jouberts live in the African bush alongside the lions and other animals they profile. They explain to Boyd that, because big cats are in such danger, their work is now focused on conservation projects such as the Cause an Uproar program.
00:11:00 Nathan Wolfe
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and virus hunter Nathan Wolfe says there is a disease pandemic lurking just around the corner. But, we can prepare ourselves. Wolfe says there are even ways to harness and use the power of viruses. Wolfe joins Boyd to talk about his new book, The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age, which is changing the way we think about viruses.
00:09:00 Joshua Ponte Audio
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Joshua Ponte was a successful young English entrepreneur when, over breakfast one morning, his eye fell on a newspaper ad that said "Gorilla Reintroduction Program, Gabon." His life has never been the same since. Pursuing his passion for conservation, Ponte moved to a central African forest where 13 orphaned gorillas were being studied. Boyd talks with Ponte about the joys and dangers of raising young gorillas.
00:11:00 Wade Davis
How did the death and destruction of World War One lead young British climbers to attempt an epic conquest of Mount Everest? National Geographic Explorer in Residence Wade Davis answers that question in his new book “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.” Davis joins Boyd in the studio to chat about the book.
00:11:00 Sylvia Earle
National Geographic Explorer in Residence Sylvia Earle has been deeper undersea than any other woman. Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, lecturer, field scientist, and an inspiration to women around the world. She recently received the Royal Geographic Society’s 2011 Patron’s Medal. Boyd talks to Earle about some of her early dives in the Jim Suit.
00:11:00 Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner(blurb here)
00:08:00 Bruce Bachand
Many people picture archaeology as the swashbuckling adventure portrayed in the Indiana Jones trilogy. But in reality, it can be much more tedious than discovering the Holy Grail and fighting Nazis. National Geographic grantee Bruce Bachand has been meticulously sewing a 3,000 bead necklace back together in Mexico after discovering a pre-Olmec burial site that housed a tribal chief and his wife, undisturbed for several centuries.
00:09:00 Catherine Jaffee
Turkey is famed for its honey, which is music to Boyd's ears—he has a notorious sweet tooth. He visited National Geographic grantee Cat Jaffee, a beekeeper who left her job in Washington, D.C. to make honey in rural Turkey. She says that bees harvest pollen from their surroundings: the best honey comes from bees with natural surroundings, large meadows, rather than urban environments. Most people, Jaffee says, eat honey that is basically a synthetic mix of sugars from all over the world.
00:09:00 Elizabeth Lindsey
Most of human history existed before the advent of GPS technologies that can pinpoint where we are at any time. National Geographic Fellow and ethnonavigation expert, Elizabeth Lindsey has taken it upon herself to understand what it was like for Polynesian explorers to colonize tiny, remote islands across the south Pacific Ocean. To better appreciate the skills it takes to study the clouds and winds in search of land, Lindsey plans to join a team of Polynesian women who are island-hopping using traditional methods: no GPS, no cellphones and no compass.
00:11:00 Lucy Cooke